Last Man Standing
Jim Hendry is still in the saddle as the Cubs' GM.
Why in the world should he, the architect of the miserable failures that have been the 2005-06 Cubs, remain in his post while Manager Dusty Baker's contract was not renewed and club President Andy MacPhail was forced to resign?
Simple. Hendry still has two years to go on his contract.
The Cubs owed Baker nothing following the end of the season; his contract simply lapsed. Therefore the decision to let him go was simple. Handshake, walk off the pier, end of story. Bye-bye.
MacPhail, who recently told local writer George Castle that he never worked with a contract--instead simply receiving an annual seven-figure salary in a classic "gentleman's agreement"--was similarly told that his services would no longer be required following a brief transition period. Bye-bye.
Hendry, however, received a two-year extension from MacPhail this past summer. Perhaps this was MacPhail's version of the Lovely Parting Gift presented to losing game-show contestants. Whatever it was, it snapped shut the Tribune Company's ever-tightening corporate fists. Unless forced by street demonstrations, scandal, boycotts, or firebombs (and I am NOT suggesting the latter), the Tribune would rather go out of business--or endorse a Democratic presidential candidate--than fire a highly paid employee with two years left on his or her contract.
So Hendry remains on his post, despite a record suggesting something just short of managerial incompetence. His greatest moments--trades acquiring good players from financially strapped franchises--don't make up for a lack of organizational philosophy. Due to MacPhail's fiscally conservative approach, other clubs have more and better scouts and more and better front-office resources. And due to Hendry's own lack of experience in professional baseball, other clubs have more and better brains running baseball operations.
As long as the Cubs lack an approach toward winning ballgames any deeper than "if we all play well, we'll win," they're doomed. Hendry's inability to grasp how teams win or lose continues to bite him, and while some of his scouts are extremely qualified, others have made very poor decisions--and Hendry hasn't effectively sorted out the good advice from the bad.
Meanwhile, MacPhail takes his conservative, low-key, quietly ineffectual 1950s-style approach back to Lake Forest, and Baker interviews for baseball's French Foreign Legion, the Washington Nationals. Both men may enjoy themselves far more in 2007 than they did in 2006.
Just watch to see how much hotter the GM's chair gets for Hendry this year. Hard to fight a battle when you're naked, out of ammo, and don't have a strategy.